Forget Windows 9. In an unexpected twist, Microsoft will be going straight to double digits from Windows 8 as it faces a challenging future for its operating system.
Microsoft just said no to 9. The follow-on to the current Windows 8 operating system will be known as Windows 10.
Windows 10 is such a substantial leap, according to Microsoft's executive VP of operating systems, Terry Myerson, that the company decided it would be best to skip over Windows 9, the widely expected name for the next version.
Microsoft has spent the better part of two years, since Windows 8's debut in October 2012, responding to criticism over the direction in which it took the operating system that has long dominated traditional PCs. Windows 8 introduced the touch-prioritized Metro design with live tiles and removed key elements of Windows 7, disrupting the familiar look and feel for long-time Windows users. The changes were representative of an overall acceleration of Microsoft's unification of its touch-enabled mobile devices with its desktop and laptop software.
Those changes found many critics and detractors.
Windows 8.1, released last year, attempted to address those complaints with the revival of core Windows design and usage properties, such as the Start button. Now, with Windows 10, Microsoft is not quite hitting the reset button on touch, but wants to make sure it does not repeat history in its attempt to take Windows forward.
"We believe that, together with the feedback you provide us, we can build a product that all of our customers will love," Myerson said. "It will be our most open collaborative OS project ever."
Taking the stage after Myerson's introduction was Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of operating systems and the current public face of Windows and Windows Phone design and development. He gave attendees a live demo of an early build of Windows 10. Belfiore, too, put the emphasis on a great leap forward.
"We want all these Windows 7 users to have the sentiment that yesterday they were driving a first-generation Prius," he said, "and now with Windows 10 it's like we got them a Tesla."
Windows 10 combines elements of Windows 8's forward-thinking design and the familiarity and functionality of Windows 7, still the most popular Microsoft OS. According to Web traffic-tracking firm Net Applications, Windows 7 could be found on 51 percent of desktop PCs in August, compared with just over 13 percent for versions 8 and 8.1 combined.
"It's easy to say, 'Oh it's Microsoft giving up on touch,'" Belfiore said, pointing out the most obvious criticism of the scaled-back Metro interface. "We're absolutely not giving up on touch. We have a massive number of users who know Windows 7 well and a massive, but smaller, number of people who know Windows 8 well."